All dogs picked up by Deer Park’s animal control officers through November will be euthanized unless picked up by their owners within three days.
The policy was adopted last month after parvovirus was found in four puppies held by the town. But some say the reaction is too extreme and an unnecessarily harsh way of trying to stop the spread of the sickness.
Charlie Powell, spokesman for the Washington State Veterinarian Medical Association, said shelters and kennels can control the highly contagious virus by sanitizing locations where an infected dog has been and quarantining those areas for several days.
But Deer Park’s animal control officer, Mike Reiter, said the town has little choice because the Spokane Humane Society won’t accept dogs from the town for six months. The decision was made in response to parvovirus being found in four dogs taken to the shelter by Deer Park in March and April.
“I don’t blame (the Humane Society) because they’re protecting themselves,” Reiter said.
The town only has six kennels and doesn’t have the medical expertise or shelter needed to maintain strays long term – especially because people rarely consider adopting pets from Deer Park’s kennels, he said.
Dave Richardson, executive director of the Spokane Humane Society, said the organization accepted about 20 dogs from Deer Park last year.
“This is not a light decision that we’ve made, either,” Richardson said. “I have to balance the needs of the individual versus the entire population of the shelter.”
For Reiter, the change is a return to the way animal control was handled when he started his job in the early 1990s. Reiter said after having to euthanize dozens of dogs, he worked to start a partnership with the Humane Society. Rather than paying a vet to kill the unclaimed strays, the city paid the society to take dogs that weren’t picked up after three days.
Reiter said he has cleaned Deer Park’s kennels with bleach twice since parvovirus was found.
Deer Park is one of the few communities in Spokane County not served by Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Service or SpokAnimal C.A.R.E. Animal control is performed by a few employees like Reiter, who also perform street and sewage duties.
Reiter said he believes it would be wise for the town to consider contracting with SCRAPS because it has the expertise necessary to handle illness and better care for dogs. Richardson agrees, adding that SCRAPS already serves the neighboring unincorporated area.
Attempts made to reach Deer Park Mayor Robert Whisman were unsuccessful on Friday.
In March, Reiter took two Jack Russell terrier puppies to the Humane Society. Soon after arriving, they tested positive for the virus. In April, he took an older pit bull and a mixed-breed puppy to the society that also tested positive, Reiter said.
Richardson said no other dogs were euthanized as a result.
“It definitely progresses very quickly,” Richardson said. “It’s very hard to control.”
Parvovirus attacks the gastrointestinal tract of dogs, usually puppies, and can damage the heart, according to the American Veterinarian Medical Association.
Nancy Hill, director of the SCRAPS, said parvovirus is found a few times a year at the county-run shelter.
“We have it periodically. Every animal shelter does. What we do is clean the cage and leave it empty for a while,” Hill said. “You just learn to manage it.”
Reiter made a plea for dog owners to license their pets. “The problem isn’t the parvo,” Reiter said. “The problem is the people who don’t get them licenses, don’t get them vaccinated and don’t get them fixed.”